Web Letter

March 2011

DigiTAG seeks to inform members and non-members about important developments in the digital terrestrial television market. Each month, DigiTAG distributes its web letter with news updates and further exploration of one topic.

To subscribe to the DigiTAG Web Letter, send an email to the DigiTAG Project Office.

Harmonising radio-frequencies in Europe

On 28 February, the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament discussed the European Commission’s proposal for the establishment of a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP). This proposal, presented in September 2010, defines the policy program for the strategic planning and harmonization of the use of spectrum in Europe until 2015. The discussion in the ITRE Committee was based on a draft report prepared by Swedish MEP Gunnar Hökmark.

As the lead committee responsible for the RSPP legislation, the ITRE Committee will adopt a Report with its proposed amendments to the RSPP legislation which will be submitted to a vote by all members of the European Parliament. Other committees of the European Parliament, such as those responsible for Culture and Education, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, will also provide their opinions on the draft RSPP legislation although these opinions have a non-binding legal status.

What is the RSPP?

The European Commission has proposed a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) which introduces market-based mechanisms in the management of spectrum. It makes use of such principles as technology and service neutrality, spectrum efficiency and flexibility, and competition. The RSPP highlights the need for a more global spectrum policy approach and determines how spectrum usage can contribute to European Union goals and objectives until 2015.

Specifically, the RSPP calls for the use of wireless applications to help ensure that citizens have access to broadband at a speed of at least 30 Mbps by 2020 as set out in the Digital Agenda. It also calls on all Member-States to make the 800 MHz frequency band available for wireless broadband services based on the harmonized technical conditions, previously defined by the European Commission, by 1 January 2013. While no direct mention is made of making further frequencies below 1 GHz available for wireless broadband services (i.e. digital dividend 2), the RSPP suggests to review the use of these frequencies and assess whether additional spectrum could be made available.

The RSPP also proposes the establishment of an inventory of existing spectrum use and possible future spectrum needs in the range from 300 MHz to 3 GHz and the participation of the European Commission in international negotiations related to spectrum matters including support to Member-States in bilateral negotiations.

The Hökmark Report

The MEP Gunnar Hökmark has been assigned the role of Rapporteur to the European Commission’s proposed RSPP legislation. In this role, he presented the members of the ITRE committee with his draft Report on the proposed RSPP legislation suggesting a number of amendments to the draft legislation. The Hökmark Report, together with additional amendments proposed by other members of the ITRE committee, will be discussed at an ITRE committee meeting on 31 March. The committee will vote on which of the amendments to include in the final Report to the European Parliament.

In his draft Report, Hökmark seeks to strongly affirm the importance of broadband in fostering economic growth and the competitiveness of the European economy. He notes the high demand for wireless broadband services and calls for further harmonized spectrum allocations for such services. Hökmark suggests that specific mention should be made of the 700 MHz frequency band which could be made available for a second digital dividend and allocated for wireless broadband services.

The Hökmark Report also calls for the development of a single European market and the emergence of pan-European operators to allow for a stronger European economy. It supports the promotion of pan-European operators and creating opportunities for the establishment of pan-European structures.

In comparison with the RSPP proposal from the European Commission, the language used in the Hökmark report is much more definitive. For example, while the Commission called on the creation of an inventory of existing spectrum use and "of possible future needs," the Hökmark Report calls on the inventory to "identify future demand for spectrum."

Regarding terrestrial television services, the Hökmark Report notes that it is "essential that terrestrial TV services and other actors be able to maintain existing services when an additional part of the spectrum is freed up for wireless services." However, the implications of this statement are two-fold. First, it implies that further UHF spectrum will be made available for wireless broadband services, and second, that the DTT platform may be required to migrate to more efficient technology standards, such as DVB-T2, in order to accommodate existing services, but effectively leaving very little capacity for future development of new services such as HDTV and 3DTV.

In answer to the question of when the 800 MHz band should be cleared of broadcast services and made available for wireless broadband services, both the European Commission and the Hökmark Report aim for a deadline of 1 January 2013. However, the Commission is prepared to allow derogations for "exceptional national or local circumstances" while the Hökmark Report uses much stronger language, calling for derogations "only in cases duly justified for technical reasons."

Other proposed amendments

Industry groups, such as the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and Broadcast Networks Europe (BNE), have presented their concerns with the amendments proposed in the Hökmark Report. In addition, they have suggested possible modifications to the draft RSPP legislation.

According to the BNE, specific reference to terrestrial broadcasting and its unique role in providing technical, economic and social benefits should be made in the RSPP legislation. Similarly, the EBU has suggested that the social and cultural objectives of spectrum users should also be taken into account.

Both the BNE and the EBU maintain that exemptions should be granted to Members States to permit the clearing of the 800 MHz band by 2015 and that the cost of doing so should not be borne by the broadcasting industry or European Union citizens.

Regarding the proposed spectrum inventory, the EBU argues that a review of spectrum usage should not be limited to spectrum below 1 GHz but rather be more general and include spectrum usage in the range from 300 MHz to 6 GHz. The BNE has called for a review that covers the entire radio-frequency spectrum.

Both organizations have called for the sufficient protection of broadcast services from interference and have suggested that the ITRE committee members include an amendment to the proposed RSPP to this effect.

Next steps

According to the current timetable, the ITRE committee will vote on 12 April on its Report, including amendments, to the RSPP proposed legislation from the European Commission. Once adopted, the report will be submitted to a vote by the entire European Parliament which is expected to take place in May.

Once approved by the European Parliament, the Commission’s draft RSPP legislation as modified by the European Parliament will be reviewed by the European Council of Ministers. Already, informal discussions are underway among the Council of Ministers. However, a formally agreed position is not expected before the second half of 2011.

While the review by the Council of Ministers is a closed procedure, it can be expected that the Council will emphasize the importance of the DTT platform in Member States. It is also expected that the Council of Ministers will harmonize the RSPP with the more general policy objectives in the recently agreed Telecom Package.

However, before the RSPP can be finalized, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers must reach an agreement on the final text as part of the co-decision procedure. This may require the RSPP to be resubmitted for a second reading in the European Parliament and review by the Council of Ministers and/or a final conciliation procedure, between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in which the RSPP legislation can succeed or fail.

Source: Natalie Mouyal, DigiTAG Project Office

About DigiTAG

DigiTAG aims to encourage and facilitate the implementation and introduction of digital terrestrial television services using the Digital Video Broadcasting Project's Standard (DVB-T). It has some 60 members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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France - ASO completed in Paris

During the night of 7-8 March, analogue terrestrial services were switched off in the region of Paris (Ile de France). Nearly 12 million people reside in this region.

Two weeks ago, it was estimated that 210,000 households in the region were not yet ready for the switch off. For this reason, the ASO organisation Tous au Numérique began an aggressive communications campaign to inform households about the impending switch-off.

Source: Le Figaro

Austria - ASO to be completed on 27 April

Analogue switch-off is set for completion on 27 April. On this date the final analogue transmitters will be switched off in the region of Carinthia.

All other parts of Austria have completed analogue switch-off. Most recently, the process was completed in the region of Tyrol in November 2010.

  Source: DVB-T Austria website

Italy - State Council rules that Sky Italia can participate in DTT tender

This follows the decision made by the European Commission in July 2010 that Sky Italia could provide services on the DTT platform so long as the services remained free-to-air until 2015.

Following this ruling by the State Council, the tender for capacity on the DTT platform can now proceed.

There are a total of 21 multiplexes available in the country, of which 16 have already been awarded.

Source: Broadband TV News

Norway - RiksTV profitable in 2010

The pay-DTT provider RiksTV has announced a profit of NOK 45.8 million (€5.9 million) for 2010. This is the first time it has made a profit since services launched in September 2007.

RiksTV ended 2010 with a turnover of NOK 897.2 million (€115 million) and 480,000 subscribers.

It offers 36 television programme services in addition to the free-to-air services offered by the public service broadcaster NRK.

Source: RiksTV website

Ireland - RTE to launch new services on DTT platform

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Carey, has approved the new services that the public service broadcaster RTE has proposed to provided on the free-to-air DTT platform Saorview.

These new services include RTÉ Two HD Select, RTÉ Aertel Digital, RTÉjr, RTÉ Plus (Phase 1), and RTÉ News Now.

Saorview will officially launch in May 2011.

Source: DCENR website

United Kingdom - 500,000 receive switchover help

The Switchover Help Scheme has announced that it has now helped 500,000 people switch to digital television.

The Switchover Help Scheme hepls those people aged 75 and over or with a disability with practical to switch one television set to digital in preparation for switchover in their region.

It is predicted that more than one million eligible people will have received support by the end of 2012.

Source: Help Scheme website

France - Government response to EC enquiry on "bonus" DTT licenses

The French government has responded to the European Commission's (EC) enquiry into the attribution of capacity on the DTT platform to the incumbent broadcasters TF1, Canal+ and M6.

According to the EC, the government failed to abide by the principles of "objective, transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate" as set out in the Telecom Directive of 2002 when allocated these DTT licenses.

However, the French government argues that certain exceptions are permitted in the Telecom Directive of 2002 that allow for the allocation of licenses for reasons of general interest and the safeguard of media pluralism.

Source: Les Echos

Sweden - PTS announces 800 MHz license winners

The Post and Telecom Agency (PTS) has announced the closure of its auction of licenses in the 800 MHz frequency band.

The auction generated a total of SEK 2,054,000,000 (€225 million) for licenses acquired by HI3G Access, TeliaSonera, and Net4Mobility (a joint venture between Tele2 and Telenor). Com Hem and Netett Sverige also participated in the auction but did not win any licenses.

Source: PTS website